Sun, Apr 06, 2003 - Page 24 News List

Sosa hits landmark 500th homer

BATTER UPThe Chicago Cub's slugger joined 17 other players in the 500 club bit could't stop his team losing 10-9 to the Cincinnati Reds on Friday


Chicago Club's Sammy Sosa watches his 500th career home run ball fly over the right-centerfield wall in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Friday.


Chicago Cubs hitter Sammy Sosa hit his 500th major league home run in a game against the Cincinnati Reds on Friday.

Sosa's solo shot at the Great American Ball Park came in the top of the seventh inning off pitcher Scott Sullivan, making him the 18th player in the history of the sport to reach the milestone.

"It's great because I don't have to think about it anymore," Sosa said after the game.

"I don't have to go up there every at-bat thinking of hitting the ball out of the park."

The Dominican Republic native made his usual home run hop as soon as the ball left the bat then put his head down and circled the bases to a deafening ovation.

When he stepped on the home plate, he pointed both index fingers to the sky and came out for a curtain call as over 29,000 fans continued to cheer.

"When I made contact, I knew the ball was gone and I'm like, `Wow, I got it,'" Sosa said. "When I went to the plate, I pointed to the sky to show my respect to God."

His next target is Eddie Murray, who retired in 1997 after blasting 504 round-trippers.

Sosa lies second among active players on the list, behind San Francisco's Barry Bonds who stands fourth overall on 615, a mark he reached earlier in the day against Milwaukee.

Hank Aaron has the most home runs in major league history with 755, ahead of Babe Ruth (714) and Willie Mays (660).

The 34-year-old right fielder took just one year and 323 days to go from 400 to 500 homers, second behind former nemesis Mark McGwire, who went one year and 89 days between landmark blasts.

He also became the third-youngest player in history to reach the plateau, following Jimmie Foxx and Willie Mays.

A pair of former Cubs could join Sosa in the 500-club before the season ends.

Texas Rangers first baseman Rafael Palmeiro hit his 491st homer on Wednesday and Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Fred McGriff started the season with 478.

Lurking behind is Reds center fielder Ken Griffey Jr., who hit his 469th home run on Wednesday.

Despite making history, it was a night of extremes for Sosa, who was hit by a pitch, struck out and flied out before homering in his team's 10-9 loss.

He is also just the second Cub to reach 500 homers, the legendary Ernie Banks being the first.

He hit his first homer in his first major-league debut with the Texas Rangers in 1989, connecting off now 294-game winner Roger Clemens.

That was all he would get with Texas, though he did add three more round-trippers later that season after being acquired by the Chicago White Sox.

He was dealt to the Cubs prior to the 1992 season, finishing that campaign with eight homers.

He began to show some power the next season, when he homered 33 times.

He has been at his best the past five years, pounding out 292 homers between 1998-2002.

That put him ahead of both McGwire, who had 284 between 1995-99, and the legendary slugger Ruth, who belted 256 between 1926-30.

Several team mates have suggested that Sosa had a chance at reaching 700 before he retires.

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